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Ordained Leadership In The
Church

By

Neil Armstrong B.A., M.Div.



Understanding leadership in the church has been of great interest to me. I have spent most of my life either preparing for ministry or being a Pastor. This is not to mention the twenty years spent growing up as a Pastor's son. During those early years I had no interest in doing anything more than observing. Then at nineteen the Lord rocked my life and I came to know Him. (My Story) Eventually through a long struggle I actually become a Pastor!

As I prepared for ministry I though about leadership long and hard. I felt lead to a denomination which believed in the Authority of Scripture, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Priesthood of Believers and the right of every congregation to choose their own Pastor. Before I accepted a position of leadership, I made sure I knew God's leading.

There was only one problem. The denomination with which I was affiliated practiced ordination. However, as I read the Scriptures I became convinced ordination was not Biblical. As time went on I began to struggle with the fact that a denomination which believes in the final authority of Scripture was so closed to any other view of official pastoral leadership. Their attitude was especially puzzling in the light of any clear evidence for the practice of ordination in the New Testament!

Very briefly here is the situation Biblically. In the Old Testament under the old covenant of the law, Aaron and the other priests had to go through the ritual of ordination in order to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. This was an essential aspect of the sacrificial system. Without ordination they were forbidden to offer sacrifices in the Temple. In the New Testament Jesus Christ went into the Most Holy Place, as our High Priest by His own blood. He is the only High Priest which the Christian needs. Furthermore, when Jesus indwells Christians by His Spirit, each believer becomes a Priest. This important New Testament teaching is called the "Priesthood Of All Believers". (Is Ordination To Be Practiced In The Church?)

This is important because at the present time ordination defines not only the role but also the perception of leadership in most churches, including the Baptist Church. Biblically it is impossible to separate ordination from the role of priest. The Catholic Church which ordains is very honest about this fact. Their ministers are called Priests. You would think that refusing ordination on the basis of not wanting to be associated with this practice would be a totally acceptable position in the Baptist Convention! A Convention in which the Priesthood Of All Believers is a core principle.

Unfortunately, when someone chooses not to be ordained in the Baptist Convention, there is almost no chance of being recognized as an "official" minister. But according to their own principles, what qualifies someone to be a recognized minister in the Baptist Church? Is it ordination? No! A person is a recognized minister when a local church calls and approves an individual to be their Pastor. This person can be anyone, male, female, educated or non-educated. It is the right of the local church to determine who will be their Pastor, without interference from any outside body. This principal is central to the identity of Baptists.

I want to clarify, I am not disputing educational or other criteria in the training of Pastors. There is nothing wrong with having educational and other standards. I have met every requirement. I have a Masters of Divinity and have been approved for ministry by every Board, including the Ordination Counsel of Convention. The only thing I have not done is to have the ordination ceremony and take the title, Reverend. A title which I believe is unbiblical in any form. Consequently, I am not recognized officially at any level in the Baptist Church, even though I have been a Minister of the Gospel for over twenty years!

This begs the question, are Pastors who are not ordained lesser ministers? Why is this important? It is important because the church was organized by Jesus Christ around the leadership of the ordinary people called disciples. The disciples were not ordained priests but ordinary individuals called and equipped for ministry by Jesus Christ. Without the gifted leadership of ordinary people, the church can not function properly. However, ordination is designed to restrict those who can enter into leadership to a select few who meet specific criteria. In most churches there is only one minister. Everyone else is relegated to a support role. Consequently the church is suffering because two classes of Christians are created. One class is made up of "official" or "real" ministers and the others are viewed as being pretentious.

My deepest concern is for people to come to know Jesus Christ. I believe the best way for this to happen is for the church to live as close as possible to the New Testament model of leadership. This model is based on the concept of the Body of Christ in which every Christian is a priest. God distributes the gifts of the Holy Spirit so all members of the Body may function in some aspect of ministry. Leadership in the New Testament is also based on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not on the tradition of ordination. It is my conviction that the leadership of the church needs to be released from restrictive practices which are not Biblical. In this way the whole Body may operate more effectively and the greatest number of people can be reached for Jesus Christ.


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